Boris Johnson has said it is “absurd and shameful” the Winston Churchill national monument is at risk of attack by protesters this weekend, and warned Black Lives Matter supporters that the responsible thing to do is “stay away from these protests”.
The prime minister went further and claimed the tearing down of statues constitutes “lying about our history”, before claiming that the demonstrations had been “hijacked by extremists intent on violence”. Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson Christina Jardine responded by accusing Mr Johnson of “stoking division and fear in our communities.”
Full border controls with the EU won’t be ready until at least six months after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020, the government has announced. It comes as the latest GDP figures show the British economy shrank more than 20 per cent in April.
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Tracing system missing too many cases, warn independent scientists
Baroness Dido Harding, in charge of the government’s test, track and trace programme admitted the system is “not at the gold standard” after data showed around one-third of people testing positive for the virus either went untraced or did not supply lists of contacts.
Health secretary Matt Hancock claimed the figures will get “better and better” and added: “Participation is your civic duty.” He said he was “not ruling out” compulsory compliance (i.e. fines).
The independent Sage group of scientists and academics said the number of people contacted in the first week was “alarming” and “well below what is required to manage the spread of the virus”.
Figures showed just 5,407 people who had tested positive for coronavirus cooperated with the scheme by providing details of individuals they had been in close contact with. But the independent Sage group pointed to ONS surveillance data suggesting that there were at least 23,000 new symptomatic cases during that period.
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Government set to backtrack on full border checks
The government is expected to backtrack on its plan to introduce full border checks with the EU from the end of 2020 over fears of the economic impact of coronavirus.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is expected to make an announcement on Friday over border operations for when Brexit fully comes into effect at the end of the transition period.
The UK had committed to introduce import controls on EU goods in the new year, but ministers are now expected to adopt a more flexible approach to prevent the departure compounding the chaos from Covid-19.
The Financial Times first reported that a “temporary light-touch regime” is now planned for UK ports, regardless of whether a trade deal is struck with the EU this year or not.
Human rights watchdog to investigate ‘hostile environment’ policy
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) will look at the Home Office’s “hostile environment” policy in light of the Windrush scandal.
The watchdog said it is launching legal action to review whether the department complied with equality law when carrying out the immigration measures.
The hostile environment strategy was devised under Theresa May when she was home secretary in the coalition government to deter illegal immigration and continued under her successor, Amber Rudd.
UK economy shrinks by record 20 per cent in single month
The UK economy plunged by 20.4 per cent in April in the biggest fall since records began, the Office for National Statistics has said.
Official figures show Britain’s GDP shrank by more than a fifth in the first full month of the lockdown as shops and factories closed and workers were sent home.
It is the largest drop in a single month since records began in 1997.
Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the fall in GDP “is really unprecedented”.
He added: “Actually, if you take March and April together the fall was 25 per cent. So in two months the economy shrank by a quarter ... it’s 10 times the size of the largest fall we have seen before the coronavirus.”
Government ‘lifelines’ will help economy recover, says Rishi Sunak
The coronavirus pandemic has had a severe impact on Britain’s economy – GDP shrank more than 20 per cent in April – but chancellor Rishi Sunak claimed the steps the government has taken, including supporting salaries, grants and tax cuts will help it to recover
“In line with many other economies around the world, coronavirus is having a severe impact on our economy,” he said.
“The lifelines we’ve provided with our furlough scheme, grants, loans and tax cuts have protected thousands of businesses and millions of jobs are giving us the best chance of recovering quickly as the economy reopens.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (AFP)
Coronavirus inquiry needed now, say bereaved family members
A new group set up for families of people who have died from coronavirus victims wants an urgent inquiry into the crisis to help prevent further deaths.
The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK group’s lawyer Elkan Abrahamson said an early inquiry should be held prior to any complete formal proceeding, which is expected to take place once the pandemic is over.
“What we need to look at straightaway are the issues which are life-and-death decisions,” he told the BBC. “We expect there will be a second spike. We want to know what the government is going to do when that happens.”
The group’s request comes after Scotland's former chief scientific adviser Professor Dame Anne Glover said an inquiry must be held before a second wave of the virus hits the UK.
|A government spokesperson said: “At some point in the future there will be an opportunity for us to look back, to reflect and to learn some profound lessons. But at the moment, the most important thing to do is to focus on responding to the current situation.”
‘Scandalous’: Government accused of ‘suppressing’ report into BAME deaths
The government has been accused of “suppressing” a report into the disproportionate threat posed by Covid-19 to BAME communities, which Public Health England has now said it will publish next week.
The BBC and Sky News reported on the existence of the second report last night – which contained recommendations for how to limit the impact of the virus on ethnic minorities.
Prof Raj Bhopal from Edinburgh University, who had been asked to review the 64-page document told the BBC that “parliament had not been told the full truth” and called for the report's immediate release.
While equalities minister Kemi Badenoch had told the Commons that Public Health England “did not make recommendations because they were not able to do so”, citing a lack of data, the government has now told the BBC that she was not referring to this second report, only the first.
The government has now told the BBC and Sky News that the recommendations will be published next week, saying the report had been conducted “in parallel” with the first but was not part of the same document.
A Labour spokesperson said: “The government’s decision to block this report is scandalous and a tragedy. The recommendations it makes could have saved lives. The minister should now explain what she knew about it and when.”
Some people ‘simply didn’t feel like answering the phone’ to contact tracers, says minister
Health minister Edward Argar has said one third of people who tested positive for coronavirus and were transferred to the NHS Test and Trace app were not successfully contacted because they “simply didn’t feel like answering the phone”.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Friday, Argar said: “Some people won’t necessarily have answered their phone, you and I know what it’s like if you have flu for example, and Covid-19 is a much, much nastier disease than that, you sometimes simply don’t feel like answering the phone or responding to much at all.”
“This is the first week of this new scheme and I think it has started off very, very well,” he added.
Argar said the government will “continue to chase up those who didn’t respond.”
Contact-tracing app ‘isn’t the vital part’ of NHS Test and Trace, claims minister
Asked about the development of the track and trace app, health minister Edward Argar told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme “It’s a complex piece of technology, and we continue to develop it and work to refine it.
“But, actually, as Dido Harding, who heads up the test, track and trace programme, has said, in a sense, the app is the cherry on the cake for this programme.”
“It is the human contact. It is the tracing that's been done ... that is the core part of making this programme work.
“So, the app has the potential, in the future, to be another step forward. But, it isn’t the vital part of it. The vital part of it is this human tracing that we have already got running.”
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